The University of East Anglia researchers have been using VR rehabilitation for stroke survivors. They have built a gaming platform that uses video game tech to improve the health of stroke patients with complex neurological syndromes.
There are 1+ million stroke survivors in the UK, and around 40% of them suffer from ‘hemispatial neglect’. A new study explores the usability of VR games to help stroke patients recover from this condition.
According to Lead researcher Dr. Stephanie Rossit, UEA’s School of Psychology.
“A stroke can damage the brain, so that it no longer receives information about the space around one side of the world. If this happens, people may not be aware of anything on one side, usually the same side they also lost their movement. This is called hemispatial neglect.”
“These people tend to have very poor recovery and are left with long-term disability. Patients with this condition tell us that it is terrifying. They bump into things, they’re scared to use a wheelchair, so it really is very severe and life-changing.”
“Current rehabilitation treatments involve different types of visual and physical coordination tasks and cognitive exercises – many of which are paper and pen based.”
“We have pioneered new non-immersive VR technology which updates these paper and pen tasks for the digital age – using videogame technology instead. But we know that adherence is key to recovery – so we wanted to know more about how people who have had strokes get on with using the new technology.”
The team tested 3 games on stroke survivors to better understand how user-friendly the tech is. VR games included a boxing game, Bullseyes and Barriers’, and ‘In the Kitchen’.
David Fried, CEO of Evolv mentioned that:
“Traditional rehabilitation treatment is quite monotonous and boring, so this gamification aspect is really important to help people stick with their treatment.”
“Our goal is to use technology to make rehabilitation fun and engaging and we have applied this to our Spatial Neglect therapy solution. The great thing about it is that it can be used not only in clinics but also in patients’ homes, thereby giving them access to personalised rehabilitation without leaving their living room.”
Helen Morse, also from UEA’s School of Psychology mentioned that:
“Overall we found that the end-users were really positive and interested in using virtual reality games to help their special neglect. The participants particularly liked the competition elements and performance feedback like cheers and clapping in the games, and we hope that this will help increase engagement with rehabilitation.”
“But some of the older participants found that their lack of experience with technology could be a potential barrier to using the new gaming platform.”
“We have used all the feedback we gathered to fine-tune our rehabilitation therapy for spatial neglect called ‘c-SIGHT’ which involves lifting and balancing rods. With competitive funding from the Stroke Association we are now running a clinical trial in the east of England to test the feasibility of this tool in people’s own homes.”
“Being able to carry out this type of rehabilitation at home is really important because it means patients can do rehabilitation without a therapist present. This is particularly critical right now because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing and shielding.”